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The Best Jeans for Men Are Legendary Wardrobe Workhorses for a Reason

GQ logo GQ 5/12/2022 Gerald Ortiz

If there's one garment that's a factotum of any wardrobe, a cure-all for any outfit, it's a pair of blue jeans. The best jeans for men won't just get you through the societal obligation of getting dressed, though. They'll make you look fly as hell, too. Jeans are the most popular piece of clothing in the world and can be worn in so, so many ways. Whether it's the infallible combo of a plain white tee and blue jeans, a daring double denim situation, or, well, literally anything else, it's hard to brick an outfit if you've got a well-fitting pair of jeans in your rotation.

So what are the best jeans for guys? That's a journey that ultimately you have to go through yourself. We know: it's tough advice to hear. But at least we can guide you down a denim-paved path toward jeans enlightenment so you can make the best decision for yourself.

How to Buy a Quality Pair of Jeans

For the folks who just want the upshot without getting into the weeds, you can bet on brands that specialize in jeans. Think the most popular jeans brands like Levi's or Lee as well as independent denim brands like 3sixteen or Tellason. Andrew Chen, owner and founder of 3sixteen, says to rely on denim-focused brands because they simply have more experience. For these brands, “it's not just an afterthought to help round out a seasonal collection," Chen says. "Companies that make the same jeans year in and year out are always making tweaks—sometimes imperceptible—to improve the product.”

The quality of a pair of jeans mostly comes down to the fabric and the stitching. The kind of jeans you'll find at most big-box stores are a mid-weight denim (if you really want to know, that's around 12oz. per yard). Speciality denim shops often carry denim that can get much heavier which lasts longer (or so the theory goes) but sacrifices comfort. Lighter denims are more appropriate for summer, but are more delicate. Jeans that are made using 100% cotton tend to stretch out with wear and shrink with washing and drying. Jeans that use some form of elastane do provide more comfort and stretch, but poor-quality elastane can wear out over time. 

If you're looking for a comfortable and stretchy pair of jeans, Jill Guenza, Global VP of Women's Design at Levi Strauss & Co. suggests walking around in the jeans for several minutes as well as sitting and standing to test the stretch's recovery. "A pair of jeans with a well-engineered fit and high-quality stretch won’t require a lot of adjustment after a few minutes of movement,” she says. 

How to Wash Your Jeans

How often should you wash your jeans? According to Guenza, “infrequently as possible.” She says that this helps to “preserve the lifespan and original look of the jeans”. This advice can often be misinterpreted, however, and has led to runaway denim-based conspiracy theories about jeans laundering including never washing them at all, tossing them in the freezer to eliminate odors (which does not work), and even washing them in the ocean. Don't do those things. “I definitely do not subscribe to the ‘once a year’ or ‘never wash your jeans’ advice,” Chen says. "This leads to smelly jeans and premature fabric tears.” If you're wearing your jeans every day, he suggests washing them every 1-2 months.

When your jeans are feeling dirty, hand washing is the best option. But if you're too lazy for that, both Guenza and Chen say to turn them inside out and wash them in the machine on the cold setting. This helps preserve the indigo dye and prevent shrinking. If you've got a pair of inky raw denim jeans in the pursuit of your own personal fades, Chen recommends hand washing them in cold water as a machine can cause some undesired fades. “In both cases,” he says, “I always hang them up to dry to preserve the fit.”

The Best Straight-Fit Jeans

Through decades of oscillating leg widths, the straight-fit jean has always remained cool. It's sometimes called a ‘regular fit' (and there are several nuanced takes on what exactly that means), but the gist is that they fit straight through the thighs and the legs. They're neither slim nor roomy. If you want to get technical, the hem of a straight-cut jean will generally be about eight to eight and a half inches.

a man standing in a room © Provided by GQ

Levi's 501 original fit jeans

$70.00, Amazon

The progenitor for every blue jean, the Levi's 501 is the quintessential straight cut jean. It's got a mid-rise that sits just below the natural waist and a Goldilocks silhouette that's neither slim nor baggy.

a blue and white shirt © Provided by GQ

Todd Snyder straight fit stretch jean

$158.00, Todd Snyder

These upgraded jeans feature a pitch perfect amount of stretch and a beautiful vintage wash that most will assume is the real deal.

Once you've graduated from washed-out jeans and the usual mall staples, these denimhead approved jeans from 3sixteen are a great upgrade. They've got the fine-tuned straight fit you're after with a wild textured denim you have to feel to believe.

The Best Slim-Fit Jeans

Slim fit jeans cling a little closer to your legs than a classic 501 jean. But we're not talking about skin-hugging skinny jeans here. They're trim in the thighs and can either run straight or taper through the leg. (Think of mod style or anyone from the Arctic Monkeys.) Slim-fit jeans look great with sleek boots or any other low-profile shoe like a canvas sneaker or loafers.

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Everlane selvedge slim fit jean

$88.00, Everlane

These eco-friendly jeans are made with less water than most jeans on the market and just so happen to be some of the best value selvedge jeans around.

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J.Crew 484 slim-fit jean

$128.00, J.Crew

J.Crew's popular 484 fit has been a best seller for ages. Why? That barely mid-rise sits just above the hips and the perfected slim silhouette is flattering on almost everyone.

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Tellason Stock slim tapered fit

$99.00, Tellason

The Best Relaxed-Fit Jeans

Relaxed fit jeans, as you might guess, have more room in the thighs than a classic straight fit. How relaxed are they, exactly? That depends on how relaxed you want to get. It can start as a sensible roomy cut and end somewhere in the vastness of parachute pant territory. Chunky shoes are befitting of the baggier silhouette, but more svelte kicks like a summer-y huarache sandal can look elegant with a billowy jean that's got a clean break.

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Gap '90s loose jeans

$70.00, Gap

These ‘90s-inspired jeans are very of-the-moment and aren’t merely relaxed or athletic fit—they're straight-up baggy. Emphasize that energy with a an oversized hoodie a la Justin Bieber, or get a little freaky with a relaxed button-up and oxfords.

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Noah 5-pocket denim jeans

$228.00, Noah

Noah's evergreen 5-pocket blue jeans are slightly more roomy than a straight cut and have an oh-so gentle taper to give them an elegant shape.

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Our Legacy Grey Third Cut Jeans

$390.00, SSENSE

Our Legacy's Third Cut is a great relaxed, nay, baggy silhouette that has a high rise that's perfect for tucking in your shirt, giving your legs some serious length.

The Best Athletic Fit Jeans

Whether your thighs are meaty by nature or because of all the sweat you've poured into the gym, you'll need a pair of jeans that have got more room in the thighs and seat. The right pair of athletic fit jeans can give you that trim silhouette without making your pants look like an overstuffed sausage, or bestow a tastefully baggy look while avoiding parachute pant territory.

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Abercrombie & Fitch athletic skinny jeans

$79.00, Abercrombie & Fitch

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Barbell straight athletic fit jeans

$149.00, Barbell

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Glenn's Denim GD112 slouchy tapered jean

$210.00, Glenn's Denim

The Best Flared and Bootcut Jeans

The ‘70s are back, baby. The world can't seem to get enough slinky shirts, trucker hats, and cowboy boots. And the wave has come for jeans, too, in the form of bootcut and flared jeans. The mania hasn't quite expanded to bell bottoms (yet), but a tasteful widening toward the hem is all you need to add a modern touch to your staid jeans collection. 

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Wrangler Cowboy cut 13MWZ original fit jeans

$40.00, Amazon

The jeans du jour for the hip set and the everyday dungaree for real-deal cowboys, Wrangler's iconic Cowboy cut is best served with actual boots or some Adidas Sambas.

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Abercrombie & Fitch bootcut jeans

$79.00, Abercrombie & Fitch

The Best Jeans Under $100

Denim's well-known for its durability (it was originally built for hard labor, after all). Thankfully you don't have to cough up your prettiest pennies to get the most out of a pair of jeans. Though there's no shortage of affordable jeans on the market, some pairs are better than others. The sub-$100 price range is a sweet spot if you find the right pair, and we've scoped out the best right here.

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Levi's Secondhand 501 original fit jeans

$36.00, Levi's Secondhand

After making jeans for over 200 years, there are plenty of secondhand Levi's on the market, each one with more character than any brand-new pair.

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Polo Ralph Lauren Hampton relaxed straight jean

$99.00, Ralph Lauren

Tastefully distressed and with a relaxed-but-not-sloppy silhouette, you'll squeeze the most out of your hundred bucks with these.

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Stan Ray original painter pant

$80.00, Stan Ray

Made in the US for decades, Stan Ray is a go-to brand for that special mix of quality to price. These denim painter pants may be slightly off-beat for a traditional blue jean, but that's precisely what makes them great.

The Best Black Jeans

Not all jeans have to be blue. Once you've got a pair of indigo-dipped blue jeans in your drawer, your next denim acquisition should be a pair of black jeans. They're just as versatile but have a dash more attitude, sort of like the feeling you get when you wear a pair of slick sunglasses.

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Dickies Houston relaxed jean

$89.00, End. Clothing

Deep, dark, and comfortably roomy, these pitch black jeans are just as good for skating as they are for a fancy date.

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John Elliott The Cast 2 distressed slim fit jeans

$468.00, Nordstrom

Mesmerizingly faded and distressed with a perfect slim silhouette, these are perfect for entering your rockstar era.

The Best White Jeans

White jeans can add a breath of fresh air to your blue jean rotation, especially once spring comes around. They can be intimidating for a lot of people, so here are two tips to help you get over the trepidation. First, optic white jeans can be harsh and blinding, so go for a pair of off-white or natural cotton jeans instead. Second, don't worry about getting them dirty. Like a pair of normal blue jeans or painter pants, white jeans look better with age.

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J.Crew 770 straight fit garment dyed jeans

$98.00, J.Crew

Temper that white-hot denim with something a little more on the creamy, vanilla side—like these natural-colored jeans from J.Crew.

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Outerknown tapered white jeans

$148.00, Outerknown

The Best Ripped Jeans

The denim industry was forever changed in the '80s when distressed jeans were first introduced. Though straight-ahead denim purists will scoff at the idea of fabricated fades, rips, and tears, a pair of artfully-crafted ripped jeans can look just as good as a naturally broken-in pair. Ripped jeans can add a subtle vintage flair or hit you over the head with some serious rockstar attitude. Leave the crunchy raw denim and bleached-out dad jeans for everyone else.

$118, Amazon. Get it now! © GQ $118, Amazon. Get it now!

Mavi "Zach" regular rise straight leg jeans

$118.00, Amazon

$970, Mr Porter. Get it now! © GQ $970, Mr Porter. Get it now!

Celine Homme "Kurt" distressed bleached jeans

$970.00, Mr Porter

The Best Jeans on Amazon

Maybe you don't want to deal with the hassle of going to a thousand different stores to try on jeans. Amazon's shipping and return policy makes it absurdly easy to try on multiple jeans, all in the convenience of your own home. We know that there's literally everything on the beyond-mega store so we've separated all the wheat from the chaff to find the best jeans on Amazon right here.

a person standing posing for the camera: $39, Amazon. Get it now! © GQ $39, Amazon. Get it now!

Lee relaxed straight fit jeans

$32.00, Amazon

a person standing posing for the camera: $70, Amazon. Get it now! © GQ $70, Amazon. Get it now!

Calvin Klein straight-leg jeans

$80.00, Amazon


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